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Frankford Gazette finds a creative way to bring its pages to the public

James and Bob Smiley, the father-son duo that runs the online-only Frankford Gazette, are constantly looking for ways to bring attention to their upstart news outlet. Their latest mission brings the phrase "bridging the digital divide" to life -- with help from the Frankford CDC, Gazette pages will soon be publicly projected for the whole neighborhood to see.
James and Bob are constantly looking for ways to bring Gazette news to residents who don't have access to the internet. To this end, they now publish 1,000 print copies a month through a partnership with Kidz Partners. 

The new window projection project builds off these efforts. The display -- which will be projected onto the first floor of the NorthEast Treatment Center building on the 4600 block of Frankford Avenue -- will be up-and-running in the next few weeks.
"No one else is doing anything like it," says James. "This is a new way people can consume news and another avenue to get people engaged."

The idea originated at the 2012 Online News Association Conference that James attended in San Franciscio. Sponsored by sponsored by the Center for Public Interest Journalism, James says he engaged in numerous conversations and debates about how other online outlets increase access to their content. From these conversations, James got the idea to broadcast the Gazette on the side of a building.

James and Bob ran the idea by the CDC's Michelle Feldman and the three of them got to work figuring out the best place to display the news.
The NorthEast Treatment Center was an obvious candidate due to its location on the heart of Frankford Avenue. They've been an incredibly valuable partner -- the Center's IT staff is installing the necessary equipment.

"They’ve been very much on board from the beginning," says Feldman.
Once all the kinks are ironed out and content is selected, the projection will run during daytime hours. 
"People can just walk by and consume the content as they see fit," says Bob, who adds that other locations along the Avenue are currently being scouted for future installations. 
The pair's excitement about their new venture is palpable -- both men note that it is definitely one of the "cooler" things the Gazette has accomplished in its five-year run.
But, as Bob adds, it's about more than being cutting-edge: "As cool as this is, ultimately we want to reach people who can’t otherwise be reached," he says. "Knowledge is power." 

Source:  James and Bob Smiley, Frankford Gazzette; Michelle Feldman, Frankford CDC
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Ambitious reNewBold project clears hurdles, finally ready for construction

Come spring, the long-awaited eco-friendly reNewBold development will be well under construction at 16th and Moore Streets. Planned for the former site of the Francis M. Drexel School, the project is a big step for Newbold, a neighborhood undergoing major revitalization.

Once completed, the project will boast 18 owner-occupied townhomes and one corner commercial space. It’s the first privately financed new construction residential project in the area in well over 50 years. And to top it off, it screams green.

Designed by Interface Studio Architects in conjunction with construction manager Postgreen, the homes will feature bicycle parking, green roofs, bamboo flooring, triple pane windows and on-sight stormwater mitigation practices. The designers are aiming for a 50 percent reduction in energy use from a similarly sized home.

Developer John Longacre of LPMG Companies expects the first phase of the project to be completed before summer, with full build-out anticipated by the end of 2014. "We can have the units built and sold within 18 months of starting construction," he explains.

That achievement is a long time coming for Longacre: Developing this particularly property has been "quite a challenge" due to the arduous process of clearing the property’s title. "It’s taken several years for us to clear the property of numerous liens," he says. "Now we’re finally ready to move forward." 

Longacre sees the project as the "missing piece" in Newbold’s rebirth. "When [LPMG] came down here 10 years ago, there wasn’t much going on," he says. "Since then, we’ve strategically tried to bring businesses and residents to the area and tried to get slumlords to improve their properties."

That mission has been a success -- the area now features numerous South Philly institutions, including Ultimo Coffee, South Philly Tap Room, Miss Rachel’s Pantry and the American Sardine Bar.

Longacre is also aiming for affordability: units will range in cost from $250,000 to $325,000. Despite all the delays, three have already sold. 

Source:  John Longacre, LPMG Companies
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Norris Square Civic Association fights misconceptions with action

The renovation at 178 West Huntingdon Avenue in Kensington is a compelling story: A large former manufacturing plant in a neighborhood that’s seen better days, transformed into high-end apartments for the upwardly mobile.

But, while our recent story on the ambitious development project described the site as lacking a civic asssociation, Candace McKinley and the folks at the Norris Square Civic Association (NSCA) respectfully disagree. The property at West Huntingdon actually falls under NSCA’s jurisdiction, and McKinley says they are quite active in the community and have been for some time. In fact, they are currently undertaking their largest project to date: developing a community-centric complex near the neighborhood's namesake park.
"Norris Square Civic Association has been active in the greater Norris Square community for over 30 years," says McKinley. "We started as a grass roots organization that brought together a group of neighborhood mothers who wanted to work to make their community safe for their children."
Through their early efforts, they were able to reclaim Norris Square Park, once known as "Needle Park," as a safe space for their kids to play.
Since 1994, NSCA has developed 147 units of affordable housing for both rent and sale while also rehabbing vacant homes. NSCA is currently building and rehabilitating another 30 single-family homes throughout the neighborhood.
Now they are tackling the massive rehabilitation and renovation of the former St. Boniface Catholic Church complex adjacent to Norris Square Park. Currently under construction, the project is set to include a school, office space, off-street parking, green space and seven units of mixed-income housing.
A brand new community center is also in the works for the site. Once complete, the center will feature sports facilities, a culinary incubator for local residents, vocational training classes, and arts and workshop training.
"The [community center] project is the result of a $5 million grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development for the structure’s rehabilitation," says McKinley. NSCA is now fundraising in order to outfit the space with the necessary equipment.
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the St. Boniface Project will take place on June 15, during the annual Norris Square neighborhood festival in Norris Square Park.
So yes, this part of Kensington might be a far cry from buzz-generating Northern Liberties and Fishtown, but there is good work being done. “Norris Square and the surrounding community are so much more than ‘the badlands,'" says McKinley. "It is a community of neighbors who are organizing their blocks and working to make their community safer."

Source:  Candace McKinley, Norris Square Civic Association
WriterGreg Meckstroth

On the Ground: Germantown school yard to be transformed into innovative community space

In dense urban neighborhoods where land is scarce, open space is often called upon to wear multiple hats. In Germantown, the John B. Kelly School yard is undergoing a massive renovation to do just that: be a playground, yes, but also a gathering space for the whole neighborhood. The plan is called KellyGreen.
“Our goal is that the Kelly yard become more green and sustainable so that it has a real purpose for the kids that come here," explains Dennis Barneby with the Hansberry Garden and Nature Center, an organization partnering with the school to transform the yard. "We also want to create a gardening space."
Currently, the site is largely asphalt and underutilized by the school’s 800 students. It's something Barneby has seen firsthand -- the school is only a block away from Hansberry Garden. "It just made sense -- lets look at this space and see how we can use it better for the kids and better for the whole neighborhood," explained Barneby in a recent interview on Northwest Soapbox.

The KellyGreen initiative was born. Thanks to a planning grant from the Community Design Collaborative, design professionals and community representatives were enlisted. A design charette process and subsequent meetings led to a workable plan. 
Barneby and Hansberry Garden hope the improved school yard will become a place where kids and adults learn how to grow their own food, both in school and during the summer. Ultimately, it’s about creating stewards of land and community.
Now in the fundraising phase, KellyGreen plans to hold a major event this spring. At a minimum, it will involve planting trees and installing raised beds. Some of the planned play equipment could also be installed.
With a successful fundraising push, Barneby hopes KellyGreen will be complete within the next two years.

Source:  Dennis Barneby, Hansberry Garden and Nature Center
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Planning Commission utilizes gaming as public outreach tool

For those anxiously awaiting the new SimCity's March release, Philadelphia city planners have an alternate fix. As part of a broad effort to engage more Philadelphians, the Planning Commission has adopted a fun, easy, interactive way to solicit public feedback for their ongoing district plans. Dubbed Philadelphia2035: The Game, the new tool is being used in conjunction with the ongoing University/Southwest District Plan.
By utilizing these new web tools, planners can reach a much bigger audience than with public meetings alone. So far it looks like efforts are paying off -- according to the Planning Commission's Clint Randall, 650 to 700 people have already registered to play. "The high interest hopefully means people are learning more about planning and projects coming to their neighborhood," says Randall.

The structure is simple: Players register online and then complete challenges featuring questions such as "What is Beautiful?" and "What Doesn’t Work?" In addition, players can post ideas for making their neighborhood a better version of its current self. Participants can also drop pins on a Google map, identifying what type of new development they’d like to see and where. 
Those without Internet access can play the game from any of the city's KEYSPOTs, free computing centers that are now up and running in the district.
The game also has an off-line impact. "As players earn coins for correct answers during the game, they can donate them to real-life causes, all based within the University/Southwest planning district," explains Randall. 
With seven causes currently under consideration, a donation toward the greening of the Lea Elementary School is the early frontrunner.
But not to fret, there’s still time to sign up and fight for some coin for a cause you care about. Players have the opportunity to donate their coins at the end of each of the three week-long missions. At the close of the game (February 18), the top three causes will each receive a $500 donation. 

Source:  Clint Randall, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Camden residents launch grassroots effort to save Children's Garden

Earlier this month, the Camden City Garden Club (CCGC) received a letter from the State of New Jersey informing them that they planned to turn over 90 percent of the Camden Children’s Garden to Adventure Aquarium operator Herschend Family Entertainment. It's a move that would open up development opportunities for the Aquarium, but, in doing so, render the garden obsolete.

The garden comprises 4.5 acres right on the Camden waterfront. It has become a part of the community fabric, offering educational programming for local children (10,000 residents take advantage of the programming annually).

It’s also become a neighborhood necessity, producing over $2 million in fresh produce a year and helping feed 12 percent of Camden residents in a city considered one of the worst food deserts in the United States.

Once news of the garden’s fate reached the Camden community, a grassroots effort to save it took off. A Facebook group, "Save the Children’s Garden" was quickly created. It has already garnered 6,500 members and 1,500 petition signatures asking to spare the Garden.

Members of the Camden City Garden Club and other grassroots volunteers met Monday night to discuss action going forward, ultimately deciding to march to the City Council meeting this Tuesday at 4 p.m. to protest the decision.

Camden residents are also stepping up individually. Garden users Lindsey and Andrew Markelz are partnering with CCGC through their online business Charity Gift Market, a marketplace for charities that sell products to support their work. They’re asking their customers to support the effort to save the Garden by purchasing the children's book City Green. All proceeds will go into a fund dedicated to saving the Garden.

"Kids need affordable, accessible, safe and inviting places like the Camden Children's Garden," says Lindsey Markelz, CEO and co-founder of Charity Gift Market. "I realize that both sides probably have a case to be made legally, but here's the bottom line for me: The garden is good for Camden. I don't want to see it leave or be moved to a place that inhibits its activities and growth."

Source:  Lindsey Markelz, CEO and Co-Founder of Charity Gift Market
WriterGreg Meckstroth

How Elkins Park got their grocery back: CreekSide Co-op opens

Earlier this month, CreekSide Co-op celebrated its grand opening at 7909 High School Road in the heart of Elkins Park’s business district, just steps from the community’s SEPTA regional rail stop. Now open in the former Ashborne Market, CreekSide is a full-service grocery store boasting 1,400 member households.

When Ashborne closed five years ago, rejuvenating the space as a grocery store a must for many area residents. A co-op -- where community members own and operate the store -- was an appealing model. It would keep money spent within the community and provide access to a wide array of locally-sourced products.

Five years of fundraising and hard work finally paid off: Elkins Park has a grocery store again.  

The longterm impact of the co-op has locals particularly excited. "CreekSide is a particularly good story because it’s aiding in the revitalization of a relatively inactive retail corridor," says CreekSide's Jonathan McGoran, who also works with Weavers Way Coop in Mt. Airy. "The idea is to create a retail village, right next to the train station."

That retail village, centered on High School Road, is ripe for rebirth. With its collection of adjacent small-scale commercial buildings and the nearby train station funneling people in and out of the district on a daily basis, the ingredients are there for a successful pedestrian-oriented district.

With decent residential density nearby bringing in foot traffic, CreekSide might also help provide a new model for transit-oriented shopping districts in the Philly suburbs.

Already, CreekSide’s presence has increased vibrancy in the village. According to McGoran, there’s been a marked increase in people on the street since the store's unofficial opening in November. McGoran expects spinoff development and additional investment just around the corner.

Source: Jonathan McGoran, CreekSide Co-op
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Rebirth at Starr Garden, the city's oldest multigenerational playground

Since 1908, Starr Garden Park has been an important neighborhood asset. Taking up the entire 600 block of Lombard Street in Society Hill, the 2.2-acre park is the oldest multigenerational playground in Philadelphia.
With that kind of history comes serious wear and tear, but thanks to the Starr Garden Neighbors, a relatively new community group dedicated to maintaining and improving the space, the future is bright.
The park has always had a lot going for it: beautiful old trees, a great location and a number of amenities including a ball field, a sports field and two basketball courts. "It’s a neighborhood gem," says Starr Garden Neighbors' Laurel Landau. "The space just needed some love."
The organization started small. "We organized and participated in five successful clean-up days, some city-wide," explains Landau. "We bagged thousands of pounds of leaves, collected trash, painted benches and fences, planted annuals and perennials, and removed graffiti."
According to Landau, the clean-up days helped the group build momentum, gaining attention from nearby residents. They eventually held two successful fundraising events. "We raised several hundreds of dollars for greening of the park," she says. "We have tapped very receptive local vendors to donate food for us to sell or gift certificates for us to give as raffle prizes."
The Neighbors have also secured two grants. The first, a Green Machine Grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, provided hands-on instruction in prepping, maintaining, selecting and planting a garden; it was installed on October 14.
The second, an Event Programming Grant from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, is being used for their upcoming Winterfest (2-4 p.m. Saturday, February 2). The event is being held in collaboration with Friends of Seger Park Playground, another open space just a few blocks away celebrating their new playground. Starr Garden’s portion of the fest will include a DJ, craft table, ice carving demo, face painting and other family-friendly events.
The next clean-up day is set for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. January 21.
Ultimately, the Neighbors’ ambitions reach beyond cleaning, lighting and receptacles -- it’s about quality of life and raising a family in the city. "Most of us involved have young children," says Landau. "We want them to grow up here." 

Source: Laurel Landau, Starr Garden Neighbors
WriterGreg Meckstroth

NKCDC rebrands and redefines East Girard Avenue

East Girard Avenue in Fishtown has the bones of a great commercial corridor. The blocks between Front Street and I-95 feature a tight knit collection of businesses and great architecture, with easy access to public transit. The booming development in the surrounding neighborhood has led to an influx of restaurants, shops and bars.
The New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) is working hard to steward that development. Recent tangible accomplishments include a hyper-pedestrian streetscape plan and "Take Me to the River," a gateway feature connecting East Girard to nearby Penn Treaty Park. Now, with two big initiatives in the pipeline, NKCDC looks to improve the intangible: East Girard’s image.
The first, LISC Corridors of Retail Excellence -- LISC CORE for short -- is the result of a grant from LISC. According to NKCDC's Angie Williamson, the group will utilize the funds to make "a big impact with small investments" along the corridor.  
One example is a Model Block Initiative on visual merchandising, focused on the stretch of Girard between Oxford and Marlborough Streets. Quite simply, NKCDC hopes the campaign will become "an example for others along East Girard to follow." To achieve that goal, NKCDC hired local architects David Quadrini and Brian Syzmanik. They'll work with the block's businesses to improve window displays and facades, and connect pedestrians on the sidewalk with activity inside.
"Sometimes it’s as simple as leaving the lights on at night or placing the cash register in just the right place," explains Williamson. "We’re trying to help local businesses develop an understanding of visual merchandising and design, skills they can use years from now."

The Model Block program should be complete by early summer, about the same time the CDC’s other large initiative will be complete. That project, Girard Avenue East District Marketing, is being funded by another healthy grant, this time from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.  
"It’s purely a marketing plan," says Williamson, "but there will be quite a bit of urban design components as well." Local firms Letter 27 and Interface Studio LLC, known for their graphic design prowess and branding expertise, have been tapped for the job. They hope to establish East Girard as a destination beyond its immediate neighborhood.
Beyond the summer, Williamson and NKCDC have their eye on the ultimate selling point for the corridor: the Front and Girard El SEPTA stop. "It’s a big gateway opportunity for us," says Williamson, noting that its current condition leaves something to be desired. "Once you enter East Girard from the El, we want as nice an experience as possible, so that’s what we’ll focus on improving in the future."
So far, no funding has been identified for such an ambitious project, but Williamson remains optimistic that dramatic improvements can be made in the not-too-distant future. 

For more on the NKCDC's efforts in Fishtown, check out our feature on Executive Director Sandy Salzman.

Source: Angie Williamson, New Kensington CDC
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Shared Space: Cedar Works makes its mark in West Philly

With places such as Globe Dye Works and The Loom, Northeast Philly does reclaimed-industrial-spaces-turned-artist-studios well. Come February, with the opening of the Cedar Works, West Philly will stake its claim in that ever-expanding market .

A former car dealership, the 15,000-square-foot facility is located in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philly. Once complete, the space will feature 23 studio workspaces, community meeting spaces and other common areas. "We definitely want to have a community aspect to the facility," explains Andy Peifer, carpenter and cofounder of the Cedar Works. "We’ve included meeting spaces with the idea that neighborhood groups and nonprofits have direct access."

The meeting spaces are already a hot commodity: Training for Change, an activist training group dedicated to peaceful social change, has booked space, and plans to hold roughly 40 to 50 sessions there next year.

Despite the communal nature of the Cedar Works, it's not a co-working space. "The studios are more individualized," explains Peifer. The idea is to attract a diverse set of artists and local businesses to use the space how they see fit. "We’ve had a great response so far; we’re now 75 percent occupied with a diverse crowd," he adds. Fine artists, printmakers, professionals, physical therapists and potters have all signed on as tenants.

Peifer credits the great response to the West Philly location—it's an area that has been underserved when it comes to this sort of flexible space."There’s a handful of places like this in the city, but most are found in former warehouses in Northeast Philly," he says. "We were lucky to find this place in West Philly, where big abandoned warehouses are rare."

Of course, the vibrant West Philly arts scene will be a huge factor in the Cedar Works' success. "We see ourselves as an extension of the arts and craft culture that’s already here," says Peifer. "We hope to build off that momentum."

The space is currently in the final throws of renovation. Tenants will begin moving in in early February. Once everyone is settled, the Cedar Works will host a grand opening. 

Source: Andy Peifer, Cofounder, the Cedar Works
WriterGreg Meckstroth

UPDATE: Big Win at Sheriff's Sale for St. Bernard Community Garden

Friends of the St. Bernard Community Garden let out a collective sigh of relief last month after the city stepped in and saved their garden.

As we reported in mid-December, the parcel of land at 1010 S. St. Bernard Street unexpectedly went up for sheriff’s sale on December 19, opening up the possibility of a developer buying up the property and kicking out the gardeners. Members quickly mobilized and began raising money to buy the land. They also convinced the city—with help from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell—to bid on the property, ensuring it would remain part of the community garden.

With a few contingency plans in place, garden members were confident of a positive outcome going into the sale. Despite some very tense moments, the sale ended up being a huge victory for the community.

The bidding started at $1,000 and quickly reached $50,000—more than the city was prepared to pay. City officials didn’t seem interested in placing a bid at that price point, but thanks to garden members shouting frantically, the auctioneer put the process on hold and moved on to other parcels. When the property came back on the block, the city quickly put down a $71,500 bid; the sale closed shortly after. The garden members had won their ideal outcome.

But the story doesn’t end there: With the city now in full ownership of the parcel, garden members hope to see the plot transferred to a land trust so it can remain a community green space and asset in perpetuity.

In another wrinkle, the garden’s second parcel (1008 S. Saint Bernard) is owned by a private entity, and still has to be secured. When that property goes up for sale—something expected to happen in the next year or so—garden members will be ready. The money they have raised so far will be saved, and more fundraising efforts will be put together to ensure St. Bernard Community Garden is preserved in its entirety.

Source: Trevor McElroy, St. Bernard Community Garden
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Neighborhood Report: MM Partners finds success in Brewerytown

North 28, a new-construction development in Brewerytown from MM Partners, was fully leased within six weeks this year. North 28’s success is now the rule in a neighborhood taking dramatic steps towards renewal.

MM Partners' Jacob Roller says North 28’s 15 units bring the developer’s total to 25 units for the year in the neighborhood, and 70 overall since they started working here. "Our projects keep getting bigger and bigger," he says. "The demand is here and we’re just trying to meet it."

In addition to the Bailey Street Arts Corridor (which we reported on a few months ago), one of the bigger projects that Roller expects to launch in the new year is 30 Baltz, a new-construction project that will create two single-family homes and eight apartments at 30th and Baltz Streets in the heart of Brewerytown.

Another is Cambridge Row, a rehab project of 10 single-family homes on the 2700 to 3000 blocks of Cambridge Street. MM Partners originally purchased the homes from PHA in partnership with the Fairmount CDC. Plans call for nine market-rate units and one affordable-housing unit.
Thanks to their residential successes, MM has dipped into commercial activity as well. "We have also brought eight new businesses to Girard Avenue," explains Roller, "mostly by filling vacant storefronts with Mugshots, a bike store, a pharmacy, Next American City, the artist Steve Powers' ICY Sign Co., the garden store Girard Supply Co., and our own office."   
Along with the promising residential projects the company has planned for the coming year, Roller notes that they'll "have a few exciting new businesses to announce in the new year as well." 
With all this activity, other developers are also getting into the action in Brewerytown. Recently, news broke that the historic St. Augustine Church at 27th Street and Girard Avenue will be converted into 16 residental units. Although details about that particular project have yet to emerge, Roller says the development is a sign of things to come for the neighborhood. "We’re excited about another developer coming into Brewerytown," says Roller. "It’s clear that a critical mass of people are starting to see the value of the neighborhood."   

Source: Jacob Roller, MM Partners
WriterGreg Meckstroth

BULLETIN: West Philly community garden faces sheriff's sale

Fifteen years ago, a group of West Philly neighbors banded together and convinced the city to demolish two burnt-out adjacent buildings on their block. The St. Bernard Community Garden sprung up in their place. Located between 49th and 50th Streets, between Springfield and Warrington Avenues, it quickly became a neighborhood institution and gathering place for residents. 

But on December 19, in an unexpected move, the larger of the two lots will be auctioned off at a sheriff's sale. Now, once again, the West Philly community is banding together to protect the fate of their community garden.
According to Trevor McElroy, a member of the community garden, he and other members heard the site was going to be auctioned off just a few days before it was to be sold in October. With the assistance of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, the group was able to postpone the sale and convince the city to bid on the property. 

That is exactly the plan. According to McElroy, the City has pledged to bid the maximum amount it can, roughly $48,000, which is the amount owed in backed taxes.

"Best case scenario is that no one bids against the city and they are awarded the land," explains McElroy. "If that happens, the land would likely be turned over to a neighborhood gardens association and the garden would stay as is."   

The gardeners hope to buy the other parcel outright and have been trying to raise money to do so, holding a fundraiser at Dock Street Brewery this past Saturday.

"The event went well," says McElroy. "We had a good turnout, and we ended up selling almost every item up for bid, but now our focus has turned to the sheriff sale on Wednesday."

McElroy admits that a number of scenarios could still unfold—the future of the garden is very much in limbo. But regardless of what happens, he hopes a positive outcome for the community is in the offing.

"If a developer does end up buying the land, we want open communication with them about what happens with the garden," says McElroy. "We don’t want to get kicked out of the property right away, only to see the land sit vacant for years. We want what’s best for the community." 

Source: Trevor McElroy, St. Bernard Community Garden
WriterGreg Meckstroth

On the Ground: Frankford CDC teams up with Aria Health

When you don’t live in the neighborhood where you work, it can be easy to commute in, do your job and go home without ever getting to know the surrounding neighborhood and its offerings. Up in Frankford, a part of town flush with local businesses, Aria Health is seeking to change this pattern. Earlier this year, the company partnered with the Frankford CDC, bringing neighborhood merchants to Aria’s Frankford campus to showcase their products and services to employees.  

When we covered this story in April, the program had yet to officially start, but the CDC and Aria were both eager to get going. Six months later, and two events down, early signs point towards success.  

"We've had two furniture businesses both make sales," explains Michelle Feldman, commercial corridor manager at the CDC. "We've had a baker sell a whole set of pies for Thanksgiving. And just yesterday, we had a silk screen and embroidery shop make three potential sales."

With these early successes, the program is really building momentum. "In just a few months, the Aria staff has come to know about the program," says Feldman. "I know several have come to look forward to it."

Aria employees are seeing the benefits of the program—now branded "Business Spotlight"—as well. "I have worked here for almost four years and did not know that right across the street from Aria is a shoemaker," says Kathleen Milligan, an executive secretary at Aria Health. "I have since had four pairs of shoes re-tipped and [given] new heals!" Other notable businesses that have been "spotlighted" include Gilbert's Upholstery and Antiques, Frankford Friends SchoolCramer's Uniforms and Mezalick Design Studio (profiled in the November 27 issue of Flying Kite). 

Thanks to the recent successes, Aria has developed a business plan with the Frankford CDC to formally institutionalize the program. Milligan hopes they can hold events four times a year. "Everyone agrees that [the program] benefits us and the community," she says. "We believe we are making a difference."

Source: Michelle Feldman, Frankford CDC; Kathleen Milligan, Executive Secretary, Aria Health
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Urban Remix: Design charrette in West Philly produces exciting ideas

A few weeks ago, over one hundred professionals from the fields of design, public policy and neighborhood leadership came together with area high school students to take part in a design charrette, envisioning a new and improved intersection at 46th and Market Streets.

Called the Urban Remix Design Charrette, the event was put on by a number of West Philly stakeholders, including the Community Design Collaborative, LISC Philadelphia, AIA Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Beth Miller of the Community Design Collaborative, the mission was clear: Use the recently renovated subway station at the intersection as a catalyst for new investment and growth. With the improved transit asset, a number of key institutions close by and a significant amount of real estate prime for development, the opportunities gave the charrette participants plenty to work with. But there were also formidable limitations: This section of West Philly is fractured by superblocks of institutional buildings and public housing, an unusual amount of topography and the elevated subway system cutting right through it. 

To turn these opportunities and constraints into design solutions for the neighborhood, the charrette teams were assigned to three different section of the district—two north and one south of Market Street. An additional team was in charge of connecting the different areas through a network of open and public spaces.

Miller says the designs that came from the teams were diverse. Significant ideas include sustainability features, green promenades, artwork under the El, infill development, and public realm cohesion. Some of the plans included options for early action, while others had an eye on longer-term partnerships and development.

One notable idea to come out of the process was the creation of a new health and human services district at the intersection. With the future headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, the new Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Karabots Center, the Youth Study Center and West Philadelphia High School joining community institutions like the Enterprise Center in the area, Miller says the idea has some legs.
That idea and many others are in the process of being refined and will eventually be published in a final conceptual master plan. From there, LISC will be able to shop the plan around, gaining community-wide buy-in and lining up potential investors to turn the planning work into results.   

Source: Beth Miller, Community Design Collaborative
WriterGreg Meckstroth
372 Neighborhood Innovation Articles | Page: | Show All
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